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Carolyn Astfalk hosts the Open Book linkup: Share what you're reading and get recommendations from other readers.

Welcome to the June 2021 edition of An Open Book, hosted both at My Scribbler's Heart AND Catholicmom.com.

An Open Book is all about what my family is reading this month, from the adults down to the little kids.

Share what you're reading by linking up your blog post below. Simply write about what you're reading. You can make it personal or, as I do, extend it to the whole family. Your post can be as simple as a few lines about the book or as in-depth as a 700-word review. That's entirely up to you. You can even forego writing all together and record a video or simply post cover photos.

No blog? No problem. Please share what you're reading in the comments.

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What are you (or your family) reading this month? Share in the #AnOpenBook linkup #catholicmom

In a Far-Off LandIn a Far-Off Land by Stephanie Landsem is a loose retelling of the story of the prodigal son set in Hollywood amidst the Great Depression. I think it’s worth sharing my review. Wonderfully researched, beautifully written, with mystery, romance, and a touch of classic Hollywood mystique! I was immediately drawn into Mina's story as she leaves America's heartland for Hollywood, where she finds little success, few friends, and mounting troubles culminating in her becoming a suspect in a high-profile murder. Equally as engaging are the two men, Max and Oscar, who, despite their own flaws, failures, and troubled pasts, risk their lives to keep her safe from harm. I'm left with a fresh appreciation for the love and mercy of God the Father, the persistent, if difficult, call to forgive, and a deeper curiosity about an age in American history marked by poverty, discrimination, and determination. 

Stubborn LoveJennifer Rodewald continues to impress me five books into the Murphy Brothers series, both for the speed at which she’s produced these books and the depth of the characters. Stubborn Love is a second-chance romance that delves into loss, addiction, and heartache. It leans heavily on Scripture and highlights the beautiful and fruitful practice of being intentionally grateful for all things. 

Strange PlanetMy daughter’s clarinet instructor offered me Strange Planet by Nathan W. Pyle to read while waiting during her lesson. I’d seen snippets of Pyle’s comics on social media, but I never really connected with them. Reading them together gave me a better sense of what he’s doing. He has a keen eye for the absurdity that gets lost in familiarity. 

The Handy Little Guide to PrayerBarb Szyszkiewicz’s The Handy Little Guide to Prayer is just what you’d expect from the title! It’s a wonderful overview of prayer with many wonderful suggestions as to how to pray and overcome obstacles to prayer. I’d recommend it for just about anyone: those new to prayer or those stuck in a rut, converts or cradle Catholics. This is one to keep on hand and pass out to friends. 

The Poppy and the RoseLike many, I’ve found the sinking of the Titanic to be an engrossing historical event. Ashlee Cowles delivers a split-time story, The Poppy and the Rose, aimed at young adults that takes the reader back on board the doomed ship. The past and present characters share a similar wound regarding their fathers that ties nicely together in the end. Spiritualistic/occult practices crop up in the story, and they are condemned soundly in the end, though for young people not well-grounded in that teaching, I think a conversation about them would be beneficial while reading the book. 

The Black ArrowMy middle-school daughter began reading The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson. She loved reading Treasure Island, and selected this book to accompany her History studies. Straight from the book description: “Originally serialized in a periodical of boys' adventure fiction, The Black Arrow is a swashbuckling portrait of a young man's journey to discover the heroism within himself. Young Dick Shelton, caught in the midst of England's War of the Roses, finds his loyalties torn between the guardian who will ultimately betray him and the leader of a secret fellowship, The Black Arrow. As Shelton is drawn deeper into this conspiracy, he must distinguish friend from foe and confront war, shipwreck, revenge, murder, and forbidden love, as England's crown threatens to topple around him.” 

A Family of PoemsAt the recommendation of Katie at Read-At-Home Mom, I’ve been reading A Family of Poems: My Favorite Poetry for Children by Caroline Kennedy aloud to the younger children. I’m not well-versed in poetry (See what I did there?), but I’ve found many poems to enjoy in this collection. Robert Frost’s poetry is a favorite, and the kids loved re-reading “The Owl and the Pussycat” by Edward Lear, which I sung to each of them as babies. I’m glad I decided to read through these poems with them. 

My Little Catholic EncyclopediaI had a large influx of Catholic children’s books to review recently, and one of our favorites has been My Little Catholic Encyclopedia by Marie-Christine Vidal & Robin. While not organized like an encyclopedia, it’s filled with lots of useful information about the faith and the Catholic Church. It’s a bit almanac, a bit catechism, and a bit encyclopedia. We’ve been reading a few entries each day, and even I find some of the precise definitions and demographic overviews useful. 

My First Interactive Mass BooksWhile My First Interactive Mass Book by Jennifer Sharpe is for children younger than my own, I really appreciated its usefulness for families with little children. This sturdy board book is brightly illustrated and includes features kids love, like lift-the flaps, tracing, and a spinning wheel. It’s ideal for preparing children for Mass, familiarizing them with the sequence and meaning of what happens there, or occupying them during the Mass itself in a way that is still focused on what’s taking place.

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Copyright 2021 Carolyn Astfalk
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